Feb 282014
 
Dublin
February 2014

I am traveling with my friend Mari Zatman.  Mari is a travel agent so this trip is a Fam (familiarization). trip for her, and I get to be her companion.  

I wanted to come over and see some of Dublin as the Fam trip does not include Dublin.  We arrived at 9:00 am, which means for a long, long day to keep from falling victim to jet lag.

We took a 6 euro ($8.24) bus from the airport to the neighborhood where our hotel is.  Fortunately it was just a few blocks walk.  

We are staying at Buswells in the City Center.  Buswells is one of the oldest hotels in Dublin made up of several townhouses cobbled together.  The lobby is lovely and the rooms functional. 

First thing one should say is that it is true – the Irish are the nicest people.  Even customs was delightful, NOT something you would experience in the U.S..  Everyone is so helpful, and due to the rather large camera around my neck, we are obviously tourists, and people stop to say – how are you enjoying your holiday?

We really just chose to walk all over the downtown area today with no real plans or stops in mind.  It was a great way to get accustomed to the neighborhood without having to concentrate on anything.  Everything of interest in Dublin is covered by a stop on the hop on / hop off bus, so tomorrow we will buy a two day ticket and get around that way.  

Dublin is a very, very walkable city, other than always remembering to look the opposite way you think you should, when crossing the street.  That isn’t even that necessary as Dubliners are as big a jay-walker crowd as New Yorkers and San Franciscans.

Economically, Dublin has quite the same feeling as San Francisco. 

House prices in Dublin  increased by 10 per cent in 2013 and commercial property prices rose by up to 20 per cent in 2013. But outside Dublin property prices are still falling and tens of thousands of houses and retail units lie vacant.
 
In Dublin the unemployment rate is 12 per cent, compared with a regional high of 18.3 per cent in Ireland’s southeast. The last county by county analysis, which was carried out in mid-2011, showed one in four people out of work in Donegal, a rural county in the northwest.
 
This means that you see  a considerable amount of homeless begging on the streets.  A sign of today’s world for sure, but sad none-the-less.
 
The architecture of Dublin is a fabulous contrast between 1700’s and futuristic 22nd century. (These two doors are typical of the Georgian architecture that dominates much of Dublin).  The area along the river front has been repurposed and done so really really beautifully.  There is a feeling that it was important to appreciate the character of the city without forcing it down anyones throat.  I point this out as the complete opposite is happening in the Mission Bay area of San Francisco where the architecture is obviously cheap, shoddy and thrown up with no thought other than saving the owners a dollar or two.  I applaud the city planners of Dublin for making the transition from old to new seamless and enjoyable.
Dublin is not cheap.  Bangers and Mash and 2 pints for lunch cost me $33US  Not terrible but pretty much SF prices.  Tipping is pretty much at your discretion, 10% being common, but mainly on food and personal services.
I will close with a fun little spot we tripped over. 
 
This is Oscar Wilde in the park at Merrion Square looking back at his boyhood home.  The home is a stately Georgian structure fitting in easily unnoticed on the street.   The statue’s nickname is “the Fag on the Crag”, and while I have never read about it, you can bet it is a well known local landmark.
 
Born in Dublin in 1854, Oscar Wilde attended Trinity College and went on to write The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, among many other satires that have become literary classics.
Persecuted for his flamboyant homosexuality and tweaking Victorian mores, Wilde was arrested for “gross indecency” relating to “the love that dare not speak its name.” He was found guilty, sentenced to two years in jail, and imprisoned. After his release, he wrote the famous poem “The Ballad of Reading Gaol,” based upon a hanging that he witnessed while incarcerated.
We will be taking a Literary Pub Crawl on Thursday night so hoping to have lots more fun author stories after that.
 
Feb 272014
 

Tá lá breá ann (It’s a Beautiful Day)

 

Okay that truly is the only thing I can attempt to write in Gaelic, and I would have loved to say it WAS a beautiful day, but that just won’t come up in google.
 
I have heard a lot of languages in my life, and while I may not be able to speak them fluently,  I can usually learn a few words in most every language.  NOT Gaelic.  Seriously the pronunciation of Gaelic when looked at, even phonetically has me in awe of native speakers.
 
Gaelic is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family.  It originated in Ireland and has always been historically spoken by the Irish, although English has overtaken the country.  I have asked many people if they speak Gaelic, and have found, at least outside of Northern Ireland it is most everyone’s second language.  Only about 75,000 people in Ireland speak Gaelic as their first language.
 
This brings up a second fascinating tidbit.  Ireland has moved over to the Euro, with the exception of northern Ireland that uses the Pound Sterling.
 
So while northern Ireland is still part of the United Kingdom we are traveling through the Republic of Ireland. 
 
The flag you see above is the flag of the Irish Republic.  The green represents the the Gaelic tradition of Ireland, the orange represents the followers of William of Orange, who were Protestants in a dominantly Catholic country, and the white represents the aspirations of peace between the two. 

As David Beresford said in Ten Men Dead “There is no neutrality in Northern Ireland, at least in the terminological sense: the use of the term “Northern Ireland” places a writer on one side of the conflict, because to an Irish Nationalist there is no such entity.”…”Northern Ireland, or Ulster, is referred to as “northern” Ireland “the north,” or the “six counties”…the Republic of Ireland is “the south” the Government of the Republic is, however, the “Irish Government”…We have met many people, and they would all like to see a united Ireland, but that is a political discussion that would take books and books, and for another time.
 
 
 We started our morning at Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells.  The Book of Kells is the most richly decorated of Ireland’s medieval illuminated manuscripts.  In Latin, it contains the four Gospels of the New Testament.  It is believed to have been created in 800 AD by monks from Iona. The book was a gift to Trinity college in the 17th century. There is no photography allowed in the room with the book, but upstairs is this jaw dropping incredible library.  Known as the Long Room it houses over 200,000 antiquarian texts.  The room is lined with busts of scholars, and houses the oldest harp in Ireland.
 
I just sat with jealousy oozing out of every pour.  The beauty of the room coupled with the collection of books, architecture and fabulous library ladders, I really, really wanted to find a way to figure out how to spend the next several years being required to do research in this breathtaking room.
 
In fact, I think the opportunity to spend time at a campus that can boast of some of the most amazing alumni would be just a wonderful way to spend a few years.  If you are not familiar with the incredible list of graduates check out this list.
 
The campus is just gorgeous, and great out door art is everywhere.  Yes that is a Henry Moore, just idling sitting on the quad.
 
We moved onto the Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham served as a jail for 130 years.  It is most famous for housing many of those involved in the fight for Irish Independence, including Robert Emmet.  A statue of Emmet stands in Golden Gate Park which you can read about here.
We had some time to kill before our appointment at the Gaol so we wondered over to the Modern Art Museum across the street.  In the middle of a classic victorian garden was this fountain that just grabbed me.
It is by Lisa Benglis, an American sculptor.
After quite a very long day it was fitting that our day ended at the Jameson Distillery salesroom. The distillery itself has moved to Middleton in Cork, Ireland.  The tour is campy but interesting, and the tasting at the end, very informative.
They choose 5 people that get to do a further tasting above and beyond just the sample of Jameson, and I was one of the lucky ones.  We compared Jack Daniels, Jamesons and Johnny Walker Black.  I had never done a tasting of whiskeys and it was really, so very, very informative to me.
I even got a diploma!
Tomorrow Guinness!!
Feb 262014
 

Saint Stephen’s Green is a small park in the city center. The park has a very rich history in itself, but it is also the home to many a great statue.

The entry to the park is graced with this statue of Wolfe Tone by Edward Delaney.  Wolfe Tone is the father of Irish Republicanism.  He slit his throat with a penknife rather than face the hangman for treason after the 1798 rebellion.

 

Behind the granite wall is this stunning piece titled Famine, also by Edward Delaney.
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Strolling through the park you will run across one of Dublin’s more famous inhabitants, James Joyce by Marjorie Fitzgibbon. The inscription on the bottom is a Joyce quote from A Portrait of an Artist “Crossing Stephen’s, that it, my green”.
The park is filled with considerably more bronzes, but these were the most noteworthy.
Feb 252014
 
 
Like any old European town, Dublin is littered with statues to the famous, and often, the long forgotten.  I am only going to focus on the pieces that captured me in an other than, historic fashion.
 
The first is truly a cliche, and the fact that I caught her alone and not covered with tourists is amazing, Molly Malone.
 
This sculpture is by Jeanne Rynhart and sits on Grafton Street and was unveiled in 1988 during the Dublin Millennium.  The Ballad of Molly Malone (or Cockles and Mussels) is a popular Irish tune and is associated strongly with Dublin.  However, little is actually known of the songs origins or the truth of the story.  The song goes, she was pretty, sold seafood from a wheelbarrow and died of fever, so now her ghost haunts the streets of Dublin.
 
Cliche, and exactly the kind of thing you would expect from a Millennium Celebration.  Truthfully, I would expect a lot more, but that type of celebration always seems to bring out the pedestrian in the public perception of art.
In complete contrast is the Spire.
 
 
The monument was commissioned as part of a street layout redesign in 1999. O’Connell Street had declined for a number of reasons such as the proliferation of fast food restaurants and the opening of bargain shops using cheap plastic shop fronts which were unattractive and obtrusive as well as the existence of a number of derelict sites.  The spire replaces Nelson’s Pillar which was destroyed in a bombing in 1966 (the 50th Anniversary of the Easter Rising) by former IRA members.  Nelson’s Pillar was seen as an embarrassment that such an open symbol of British Imperial history dominated the main thoroughfare of Ireland’s Capital city. 
 
 
 
The original was a 121-foot high column to England’s greatest Naval Hero, Admiral Lord Nelson. It was erected in 1808 to commemorate his victories at sea and his death at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. 
 
At the Garden of Remembrance, this “Children of Lir” by Oisin Kelly was added in 1971.  The statue represents rebirth and resurrection and is perfectly appropriate for its location and absolutely exquisite in its execution.
There are four of these bollards, they surround this tiny little plaque in the sidewalk. 
 
 
Ironically, this little plaque is just the marker for the huge Parnell Monument that sits in the intersection.  This small plaque tells you that the sculptor of the Parnell Monument is August Saint-Gaudens.  Born in Dublin 1848 and Died Cornish New Hampshire, USA 1907.  
 
How appropriate to celebrate the artist as well as the subject.  The history of this plaque says so much about the back and forth of the Irish and American tradition.
 
This plaque to Saint-Gaudens was dedicated in 2007. Saint-Gaudens had worked very hard to complete the Parnell Monument, despite suffering from cancer, and it was his last public monument that he saw through to the end. The Saint-Gaudens plaque was made by a student of his, Lawrence J. Nowlan.
 

 

 

 

 

 
Standing on a small traffic island I looked down and spotted these. The piece is titled People’s Island  (1988)  and it is by Rachel Joynt.  It just wowed me, and it took me more than a couple of hours to find out anything about it.  Typical of fabulous public art, most people don’t even know it exists, especially when it is in the pavement they walk across every day.
 
 

 

 

Just a smattering of street lamps around town.
Dublin has a very active public art program, with some glorious art along the canals, that we have simply run out of time to explore.  Like so many cities with good public art programs it is everywhere and often missed.
But alas, if you know me, it wasn’t missed by me. – Here is one that I spotted and liked, just haven’t found anything out about it.
Feb 252014
 

Shamrocks and Ireland are synonymous.  This comes from St. Patrick and the use of the shamrock to represent the Holy Trinity.  The name shamrock is derived from the Irish seamróg and simply means “little clover”.  However, did you know that it is NOT the symbol of Ireland?

That honor goes to the harp. The coat of arms of Ireland is a gold harp with silver strings on a blue background. References to the harp can be found as representations of the king of Ireland as far back as the 13th century. The harp was adopted as the emblem of the Irish Free State when it separated from the UK in 1922.

The Harp is on the coins of Ireland and lo and behold, also on the Guinness Bottles and Glasses.  However, Guinness was not allowed to use the same harp as the Irish Government, so you will find them reversed on bottles, cans, and glasses produced by Guinness.



The shamrock in the picture is on a pint of Guinness we ordered at the Guinness Storehouse/Sales Rooms.  The area that we visited is called the St. James’s Gate Brewery and was founded in 1759.  You are given a wonderful sort of PR/Fairytale tour.  Explaining how Arthur Guinness took out a 9000-year lease for 45 pounds sterling a year.  Well, they were smart enough to eventually buy the land outright and during the 19th and 20th centuries owned most of the buildings in the surrounding areas as well, including many streets of housing for brewery employees and offices associated with the brewery.  They even have their own power plant.

The Lease



The Guinness family now owns a mere 5%, the remaining belonging to Diageo. Diageo is a British company that owns such brands as Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Bailey’s and then owns 34% of Moet Hennessy which owns Moet/Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, and Hennessy.  

 

 



The Guinness Storehouse is really fabulous.  It is seven glorious stories of marketing.  You can take that as you may, but the architecture is stunning.  Essentially a void was carved from the center of the old storehouse.  The void is designed in the shape of a pint glass.  The glass, if filled would hold 14.3 million pints. 

The Panoramic View of Dublin from the 7th floor

 

The most iconic advertising symbol
This all leads to our expedition today to the countryside.  On our way to view peat bogs, old monasteries and a “typical” Irish town we passed one of the summer estates of the Guinness Family.
The house is on the right hand side of the photo

Those are raindrops on my lens, and it was blowing so fierce it was pretty darn hard to stand up straight, but what an amazing place.

Feb 252014
 

Pubs and Ireland, an unbreakable bond in everyone’s mind.  There are approximately 800 pubs in Dublin at this time. However, over 1500 pubs have closed in the last 5 years.  So, when a friend tells says “you must go to…. greatest pub in Dublin, we had so much fun…”, be prepared.  Some of the pubs are classic and have been around for 100’s of years, others? well….

Pubs are neighborhood joints, with neighbors and steady clientele, but if you are a tourist what then?  My advice, walk in, sit down, order a pint and see if you like the place.  If you do, order another pint, if not, walk down the road and try the next one.

Pub food is like your favorite corner restaurant, you like it or you don’t, and inevitably someone is going to agree with you and three will say you obviously don’t understand good pub food.  I am a bangers and mash fanatic, I have had good, bad and ugly, but accompanied with a couple of pints and good company, it is all good, and that is really what it is about.

So – one’s we visited:

The Palace Bar – 21 Fleet Street – just off the Temple Bar area.  The palace bar is an original victorian pub and a haunt of newspaper writers in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s as the Irish Time’s office was just 3 minutes away.   We loved it because the 27 year old bartender was well informed on craft beer, and took the time to sit down and give us the history of the area, and his favorite craft beers, and where to buy them (even wrote them down and sent me out the door with a list).

Photo from their website
O’Neil’s -2 Suffolk Street:
They have a carvery, a fancy word for sandwiches with fresh carved meats.  The place is ABSOLUTELY HUGE!!!!!  They even have TWO snugs (or snuggeries).  Before World War II it was really not acceptable for women to enter pubs.  Eventually enterprising publicans saw the advantage of adding women who drank to the clientele as added income, so they put in nicely lit lounges.  These lounges all had there own entry door, and became known as snugs.
O’Neils getting ready for the big rugby match this weekend
The Stand – 37 Exchequer Street
This is a very small spot with two beautifully carved bars. Michael Collins ( he signed the first treaty that formed the Irish Free State)  was a regular and used the place (often in disguise) to elude police and gather information. This place was especially comfortable to me as a woman, and in fact that seemed to be the largest clientele. There is a photo in the upper bar, showing that the place was once named Monico.

Blarney Inn – Kildare and Nassau Street

Set in one of the city’s oldest buildings (1837) the bar has exposed brick walls and local street signs hanging everywhere.  Great Bangers and Mash!

The last pub we visited, is why paragraph number two is so important.
Foleys – 1 Merrion Row

We were told by EVERYONE to go to Foley’s, we did.  It was completely empty at 7:30 in the evening.  We had decent (but not great) fish and chips.  After we ordered, the waitress said to us, why are you here tonight?  We just sort of stared at her and she said “all the tourists come on the weekends when we have music”  So…that is why I think you should just find pubs by tripping over them, the more you can blame that on the drink the better.

As I said, over 800 pubs – we are going to need a lot more time…

There are a lot of different types of pub crawls if you are visiting Dublin and want some guidance, there are music ones, literary ones and even a hostel pub crawl, have fun!

A great book on pubs, alcohol consumption, all intertwined with literature is: Dublin Literary Pub Crawl by Colm Quilligan

Some silly facts:

Whiskey is called the water of life “uisce beatha” in Gaelic

Shebeens is Gaelic for Little Mug – These were drinking establishments of the tenement areas in the 18th century but did a brisk business in the slums during the 30’s and 40’s.   Profits were huge because no one paid taxes, but we all know the consequences of moonshine – you gets what you gets, so it wasn’t exactly the safest alcohol to consume.

In 1929 one pint of stout cost one penny.

The holy hour.  Pubs closed between 2:30 and 3:30 pm to do general housekeeping.  The holy hour lost its attraction when tourists arrived and didn’t understand why the pubs were closed. The tradition was done away with in 1988.

In 2008 the Drinks Industry of Ireland reported that alcohol sales were worth approximately 6 Billion Euros to the economy.

Smoking was banned in pubs in 2003.

Technically a publican could still refuse to serve a woman until the Equal Status Act in 2000.  That would have been a brave man by far.

Over half of the country’s existing 37 breweries and cider makers have been set up since 2009.   Since the bartender was so kind to share with me, I will share his list with you.
 
Breweries:
Galway Bay Brewery
         Try the Brew Dock, and the Black Sheep
Against the Grain
JW Sweetmans
 
Bars for trying new brews:
The Porterhouse Temple Bar on Nassau Street
 
and if you stop by L.  Mulligan – Grocer they will give you an amazing education and send you home with bottled brew of your choice in large jugs. 

Sláinte

Feb 252014
 

We have been very fortunate with our weather, but we fear that is about to run out.

Ireland has been suffering from storms, the likes of which they have never seen.  The average rainfall is approximately 49 inches a year and of course, there is more in the mountainous regions.  They have had 120 inches of rainfall this year.  (that is what I have been told, I have been unable to verify those exact numbers).

Two weeks ago they had a storm that affected the entire country with hurricane force winds.  There are trees down everywhere, not just a few, we are talking hundreds and hundreds, and the standing water is not just puddles but lakes of water everywhere.

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The damage done has been horrendous.  No lives lost, which shocks me when you see how what was obviously flying debris is embedded in the ground.

 That is slate from the slate roof embedded in the grass.
Ironically, the abundance of rain is affecting their cattle industry.  While we are selling and butchering our cattle because there is not enough feed, they are doing the same thing, but because they can’t get the cows out to pasture the cost of feed is killing the farmers
It is calving season, and the calves are being delivered inside.  The slurry is building up in the barns, and they can’t spread it on the fields because they are flooded.  We may be lacking water, they have too much, but the devastating effects on the farming industry are the same.
We are in Killarney, the emerald of the Emerald Isle, and yet it has been raining so badly today we have not been able to see much.  A glimpse here and there, reveals a gorgeous countryside, wish I could share with you, but pictures are not to be had through my camera today.
Looking out at Muckross Lake from Muckross House.
Here are some views off the internet:

 

Feb 232014
 

These two sites are exactly what one’s minds eye sees when they think Ireland.

This would be more the case if photos showed up better.

Glendalough
About 35 miles outside of Dublin
Glendalough comes from the Gaelic Gleann da locha meaning the Glen of two Lakes

Glendalough is home to one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland. This early Christian monastic settlement was founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century and eventually developed into a “Monastic City”

Once inside the gate and past the cross, you had sanctuary.

Kevin, a descendant of one of the ruling families in Leinster, studied as a boy under three holy men, Eoghan, Lochan, and Eanna. During this time, he went to Glendalough. After traveling around a bit he returned with a small group of monks to found the monastery where the ‘two rivers form a confluence’. Kevin’s writings talk about his fighting “knights” at Glendalough; scholars today believe this refers to his process of self-examination and his personal temptations. His fame as a holy man spread and he attracting many followers. He died in about 618. For six centuries afterwards, Glendalough flourished.

Around 1042, oak timber from Glendalough was used to build the longest (98.5 feet) Viking longship ever recorded. A modern replica of that ship was built in 2004 and is currently in Roskilde, Denmark.
The actual use of this tower is unknown, but it is assumed it was a lookout tower
The roof of this church is stone.
The monastery in its heyday, included workshops, areas for manuscript writing and copying, guest houses, an infirmary, farm buildings and dwellings for both the monks and a large lay population. The buildings which survive probably date from between the 10th and 12th centuries.
The Cliffs of Moher

 

The Cliffs of Moher or Ailte an Mhothair in Gaelic, are located at the southwestern edge of the Burren region in County Clare, Ireland. They rise 390 feet above the Atlantic Ocean at Hag’s Head, and reach their maximum height of 702 feet just north of O’Brien’s Tower. The cliffs receive almost one million visitors a year, making the cliffs one of Irelands most visited sites.
 
O’Brien’s Tower
O’Brien’s Tower was built in 1835 by Sir Cornelius O’Brien who was certain that tourism would help Ireland come out of its financial troubles. O’Brien was a descendant of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland.  Unlike many other landlords during the famine, O’Brien was a member of the Liscannor Famine Relief Committee which allocated relief work to impoverished tenants as a means of providing for them when their crops failed.
 
Th
The stack of rocks to the left, called Branaunmore, was originally part of the cliffs, it shows you how amazing the coastal erosion is and how powerful the sea is.
 
 
The cliffs take their name from an old fort called Moher that once stood on Hag’s Head, the southernmost point of the cliffs.  I could not find exactly when it was built but the fort still stood in 1780 and is mentioned in an account from John Lloyd’s a Short Tour Of Clare (1780). It was demolished in 1808 to provide material for a new telegraph tower.
The day was clear enough for us to see the Aran Islands in Galway Bay, but not clear enough to get any decent photographs.  There are approximately 1200 people living on the Aran Islands, it must be a very cold a desolate place to live judging by the cold and wind we were experiencing while looking out over them.
 
The Aran Sweater
 
We were told by the guide that the stitches of the sweaters were each individual to the fisherman, so when they fell overboard and their body was retrieved they could be identified.  Well, …that is a myth.
This “misconception” is thought to have originated with J.M. Synge‘s 1904 play Riders to the Sea, in which the body of a dead fisherman is identified by the hand-knitted stitches on one of his garments. However, even in the play, there is no reference to any decorative or Aran-type pattern. The garment referred to is a plain stocking and it is identified by the number of stitches, the quote is “it’s the second one of the third pair I knitted, and I put up three score stitches, and I dropped four of them”. There is no record of any such event ever having taken place, nor is there any evidence to support there being a systematic tradition of family patterns.
 
Most historians agree that Aran knitting was invented as recently as the early 1900s by a small group of enterprising island women, with the intention of creating garments not just for their families to wear but which could be sold as a source of income. These women adapted the traditional Gansey sweater by knitting with thicker wool and modifying the construction to decrease labor and increase productivity.
So after all that Irish beauty of the last two days, we retire to our simple little hotel just outside of Limerick, the Adar Manor.
The Manor was built in 1832.  There are some fun little curiosities about the hotel such as the turreted entrance tower at one corner rather than in the center, 52 chimneys to commemorate each week of the year, these chimneys service 75 fireplaces and there are 365 leaded glass windows to represent every day of the week.

 

What really blew my mind when I took a stroll outside was the parapet, it took me a while to make it out, but it says:  Except the Lord build the house, then labour is but lost that built it”. (Psalm 127:1)
The Manor sits on 840 acres and yes a golf course.

 

The interior is bedecked as you would expect with a myriad of castley things.  There are tapestries, crests and lots and lots of carved animals on the beautifully carved stairways.  Long tables in the dining room with tall candelabras, and faces of family staring out at you from gilded frames.
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Fairies and Leprechauns
So dinner conversation was about Irish Fairies.  A fairy tree is a Blackthorn or Hawthorn or even an Oak, and no one will mess with them, in other words, if one is standing where the highway is supposed to be built, they will put a bend in the road, if a farmer has one standing in the field, it stays and he plows around it.  It is believed that if you tie on a piece of cloth as it disintegrates your wish will come true.
The leprechaun is the cobbler to the fairies.  The fairies would come out and dance the night away, so of course, they would need new shoes, they paid the leprechaun in fairy gold.
Everyone knows the leprechaun hides the gold at the end of the rainbow but did you know they really are cranking little buggers because all they care about is their money.
That’s all, I don’t have any other story

Sin sin, níl aon scéal eile agam

For now anyway – more tomorrow.
Feb 202014
 

Well, we lucked out today, cloudy and cold, but nowhere near as much rain as we experienced yesterday.

We joined the ocean at Kenmare Bay.

We drove the Shea Head to the Dingle Bay.

Then we gasped at the Great Blasket Island.

The Blasket Islands were inhabited until 1953 by a completely Gaelic speaking population. The inhabitants were evacuated to the mainland on November 17th, 1953.  The population had dwindled to only 22 inhabitants as the young had emigrated and not returned.  Many of the inhabitants ended up in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

We stopped in the town of Dingle for lunch.  Dingle is the third largest fishing port in Ireland.

We found a spot for oysters.  They were labeled Glenbeigh

The Dingle Peninsula is a rugged and beautiful area.  The rocky area gives building materials for fences and houses as well as these beehive structures.

The huts or Clochan are a corbelled, drystone construction.  Similar to the church with the stone roof  I spoke of a few days ago.
Ireland is a very ancient country as many know.  The tombs of Newgrange in County Meath date to 3200 BC making them older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. 
 
The question of the date of corbelled huts is a difficult and complex one. The corbelling technique has been known in Ireland since the Neolithic Period when corbelled vaults were constructed to roof passage-tombs.
 
The Irish have been embarking on a DNA project to determine how old the Irish are.  Scientists have able to identify a particular genetic pattern in the Y chromosome of the Irish. An ancient genetic marker, known as haplogroup 1, was found in most Irish men. Scientists think that most of the population of Western Europe carried this gene over 10,000 years ago. Over time, however, through the movement and mixing of peoples, this gene was diluted throughout Europe. 
 
Scientists have shown most of the genes present in the Irish of today came from the people who were living at the time of Newgrange. These people were the descendants of the ancient hunter-gatherers of Europe.
 
 
 
I will finish with a little fun with Gaelic.  The sign reads phonetically as “Crack House”.
 
Feb 192014
 

Today was a visit to Blarney Castle, so yes, that meant kissing the Blarney Stone.

Blarney Castle is a little over a one hour drive through beautiful country from Killarney.  We went along side the Darrynasagart Mountains that had a dusting of snow on their tops and continued traveling along the Lee River, which was running very full and very fast.

 

The Blarney Stone is on the top of the castle.  You climb 108 steps to get to the top.  They are the typical steps you expect in a castle, narrow, steep, and thanks to the rain, slippery.
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There are little rooms to step into along the way if you get a tad nervous.  I was eternally grateful that we were there off season.  I can not imagine doing this stairway in the height of tourism season.  Like everything in todays world, the experience is well controlled.  There is a fella there to help you lay on your back and bend backwards to “do the deed”.  I asked someone to take my picture while doing it, but lo and behold, they got nothing.  Not to worry, you can pay 10 euros for the one they automatically take when you bend down.

 

The picture is actually pretty good, but this is a picture OF the picture.  We had glorious weather, a shower here and there, but it broke often enough for us to enjoy the grounds.
There are other sites on the 60 acres that make up the park, we took time to explore the Rock Close, much of which was closed due to downed trees.  The Rock Close is said to be on the site of an ancient druidic settlement.  There are some beautiful rock formations in the Rock Close including the Wishing Steps.  This is Mari walking down, backwards and with her eyes closed.  That is how you have your wish granted.
 
There is the Witches Kitchen, which is a beautiful cave under a stunning old tree.  It was impossible to capture it all as the quarters are rather small.
What I loved, of course, is that there are little art installations everywhere.  Whomever is the curator I give them a big round of applause, every piece was absolutely perfect for its location.
These were two of my favorites, and I promise they will eventually end up on ArtandArchitecture-SF when I get home and can do more research,

 

Both pieces are of ceramic.  The top one is “Puffballs” by Michelle Maher and the second is Symmetry, also by Michelle Maher.
After a cupper we headed to the lovely seaside town of Kinsale.  It is known as the gourmet capital of Ireland, and has quite a number of four and five star restaurants.  We didn’t have time for dining, but stopped in a fabulous book shop / coffee shop and I walked a way with a few great books and a belly full of pastry.
We had but a photo-op at Charles Fort, which dates from 1677.  It was built to protect the area and specifically the harbour from use by the French and Spanish in the event of a landing in Ireland. James’s Fort is located on the other side of the cove. An underwater chain used to be strung between the two forts across the harbour mouth during times of war to scuttle enemy ships by ripping the bottoms out of them.
I admit, so many times Michael would drag me through forts like this, and I would fain excitement.  This one however, I really would have loved to have walked through, the stone work was just glorious. It appears to be almost built into the side of the mountain, intriguing me even more.    Here is a photo I pulled off the internet.
Of other historical interest about Kinsale is about the RMS Lusitania.  On May 7, 1915 the RMS Lusitania was nearing the end of her crossing from New York to Liverpool. She was running parallel to the south coast of Ireland, and was roughly 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale (a headland near the town) when sunk by a German U-boat.  Some of the bodies and survivors were brought to Kinsale and the subsequent inquest on the bodies recovered was held in the town’s courthouse. 

Kinsale is a popular summer resort with both the Irish and others.

Normal population is 2700 but it grows significantly in the summer time.

As you can see – it is a quaint and historic little town.

 

Feb 182014
 

February 2014

We had a few moments to kill when we had a flat tire on our bus, so we headed over to University College Cork (UCC).  The UCC collection was started in 1861 and the last stone was added in 1945.  With the exception of one all are from County Cork.


Ogham (pronounced Om) is the earliest form of writing in Ireland, it dates to around 4th century A.D. and was in use for around 500 years.  The Ogham alphabet is made up of a series of strokes along or across a line.  Ogham is sometimes referred to as the “Celtic Tree Alphabet” as a number of letters are linked to old Irish names for certain trees.  The alphabet was carved on standing stones to commemorate someone, using the edge of the stone as the center line.  They normally read from left-hand side bottom up, across the top and if need be, down the other side.

Back in Dublin for our last night before heading out.  We had a moment to see a few more things.  We stopped in at the Natural History Museum.  I must admit, a natural history museum is not really my thing, but I had read about this one, and it was worth the visit.
The museum was built in 1856 to house the Royal Dublin Society’s collection. The building is a “cabinet-style” museum designed to showcase the collection that had expanded considerably in the 1800’s.  It has 10,000 exhibits and was designed by architect Frederick Clarendon.
There are a lot of these little vignettes.
The Irish Elk was one of the largest deer that ever lived.    Although most skeletons have been found in Irish bogs, the animal was not exclusively Irish.  I can not even imagine how large the animal must have been to hold up those antlers to say nothing of the muscles in their necks.
 
Unable to adapt to the subarctic conditions of the last glaciation the largest deer that ever lived became extinct, the last one in Ireland dying around 11,000 years ago. The elk may have possibly survived in continental Europe into historic times.  Some found in Siberia have been dated to 7, 700 years ago.
 
So I am going to leave you this afternoon with faces.  The carvings of Europe are so fabulous and especially in the churches.  I found these fun faces on churches throughout.